Even now, five years later, Reese Gregory can still hear that voice when he’s on the pitcher’s mound.
Especially in moments when he needs it most.
“All of a sudden, if I make a bad pitch or a bad choice, I can hear him in my head telling me what I need to be doing, or what I need to change,” said Gregory, a St. Cloud State University standout. “I can remember all the things he told me.”
“He” would be Gregory’s father, Mike, who was also his son’s baseball coach at St. Cloud Apollo when he died five years ago this week — April 18, 2010.
Mike Gregory had suffered a severe spinal cord injury after a fall down a stairway in downtown St. Cloud earlier that month and never recovered.
He was 51 years old.
“It’s still hard,” Reese said. “Especially right now, coming up to the exact date. But throughout the years since then, whatever I’ve been facing, I can hear him. I know he’s still with me.”
Mike Gregory was a 1977 Apollo graduate who himself played baseball for the Eagles and for the St. Cloud 76ers American Legion team in the summer.
He was employed by Rivard Stone in brick and stone sales. But he also coached baseball. And, in 2005, he took over as the varsity head coach at his alma matter.
There he not only led the Eagles to a sub-section title in 2008, but coached his sons Ryne and Reese as well.
“He was a guy who could just talk to people and make them happy, make them feel very good about themselves,” Reese said. “On top of that, he was the kindest guy you’d ever meet.
“And I had the pleasure to be able to call him my dad.”
Reese said the support of the local baseball community helped get his family through the difficult days after his father’s death.
“It was just unbelievable, the support we received,” he said.
Josh Vorpahl — who took over as Apollo’s interim head coach in Gregory’s absence — said that was a measure of how much he was respected in area baseball circles.
“He was a well-liked individual,” said Vorpahl. He will get together with Gregory’s family and friends at 7 p.m. Saturday at G-Allen’s in Sartell — a gathering on the anniversary of his death that is open to all who knew him.
“It didn’t matter what ballpark we were at or who we were playing, he was always the first guy out of the dugout to go talk to the other coach,” Vorpahl said. “As much as he wanted to whoop the other guy’s tail, he had a ton of respect for the other teams we played and he demanded that of our players too.
Vorpahl — who now works with special needs students at Oak Ridge Elementary in Sartell — said Gregory was a tireless worker as a coach.
“He put in so much time and he didn’t want credit for it,” Vorpahl said. “He just wanted the best possible opportunities for his players.”
Reese Gregory went on to have a stellar prep career — earning 2012 Times’ All-Area Player of the Year honors as a senior at Apollo. That success has carried over to the college ranks where he earned All-NSIC and All-American third-team honors as a sophomore last season. He also plans to play for the St. Cloud Rox of the Northwoods League for a third straight season this summer.
He said that’s all thanks, in part, to everything he learned from his father.
“He was the No. 1 influence on me,” Reese said. “He taught me to always be humble and to consistently work to get better every single day.
“I feel like his memory creates its own legacy. But I’m just trying to do whatever I can on the field to make him proud. I want to go as far as I can in a sport that has been such a big part of our family.”
25 years ago (1990)
Rhonda Donabauer, of Kimball, won $5,111 after buying $25 worth of tickets at the J&J Mini-Mart as the Minnesota Lottery made its debut.
“We were planning to save for a trip to Las Vegas,” she told the Times. “Now we don’t have to save anymore.”
50 years ago (1965)
Ground was broken for a $2.4 million Science Hall at St. John’s. The building — which replaced a structure built in 1911 — was designed by Marcel Breuer, who also designed a number of other buildings on campus including the Abbey Church.
Meanwhile, at St. Cloud State, footings were being poured for the new $1.6 million Atwood Memorial Center.
75 years ago (1940)
Census officials estimated that St. Cloud’s population would go over 25,000 in the 1940 census. That turned out to be just a bit optimistic. The city’s official count came in at 24,170. That was still up from a population of 15,500 in the 1920 census and 21,000 in the 1930 census.
Sauk Rapids grew from 2,656 in the 1930 census to 2,969 in 1940. Waite Park grew from 1,318 in 1930 to 1,426 in 1940.